Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reading Response 5: Responsive Architecture

Both texts discussing responsive architecture address how a multitude of artists, designers, and architects are researching and exploiting smart and responsive materials, collaborations with nature (i.e. the Solar Collector discussed by Matt, Susan, and Rob Gorbet), growth structures, and biomimicry as foundations for their work. Naturally, I was drawn to Steve Vogel’s excerpt from the text discussing forms of biomimicry that could and are applied to new architectural designs. I was recently introduced to a book titled Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by Nature by Janine Benyus that discusses these issues in great length both inside and outside architectural design. I think it is interesting that architects and artists took this long to start actively using natural design in their work and unfortunately, instead adopted the attitude that technology improves upon nature, a trend that I am attempting to dispel from my own work. This text and Benyus’ book offer great insight into engineers and artists pioneering technological breakthroughs by recognizing and replicating nature’s hidden marvels. It is refreshing to find so many inspirational inventors now collaborating with nature and borrowing concepts from biological and ecological systems instead of building on top of them. I find it interesting that these new thought processes are ultimately coming to the forefront due to failed human engineering in the past. I am not trying to say that historically, natural design was completely dismissed, but it wasn’t the first frame of reference in design (specifically in brick and concrete rudimentary structures). These new technologies and designs are teaching us how to live in harmony with nature and its inhabitants that have preexisted human beings by thousands of years, rather than trying to dominate them. Our extremely unnatural technologies will leave the earth unsuitable for life, if not improved upon now by creative innovators starting with us.

Another fascinating read written and illustrated by Peggy Macnamara, an instructor at SAIC. Published by the University of Chicago and inspired by the vast nest collection at the Field Museum. Book cover and example illustrations examining natural architecture below:

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